Updated: Jul 4, 2020
I spent most of my career in safety-critical engineering in the automotive industry. From 1921 through 2018 the industry reduced the serious injury rate per vehicle mile traveled by a factor of more than 20. How did we do this?
The answer to this question, while based on the development of many sophisticated technologies by hundreds of thousands dedicated engineers, is easy to understand. We layered mitigations.
The math of layered mitigations is really quite simple, and each mitigation adopted reduces risk.
Let me say before we get into the simple math, that the figures used in this article are simply for example purposes. They are not exact figures, and you can find many experts who disagree on the exact figures. Nevertheless, the principle of layering effective mitigations holds true.
A Simple Example
Let's take a simple example from the automotive industry using just four technologies: seat belts, antilock brakes, high-wet-traction tires and airbags. Let's assume that each one has an ability to prevent serious injury of 70% for a specific type of impending potential accident - a head-on collision during rainy weather.
Another way of looking at this that keeps the math a bit more simple is to say that each of the four mitigations has a failure (occupant gets seriously injured in the specific type of impending potential accident) rate of 30%.
The risk of serious injury using just any one of the technologies is:
Seat belts: 30%, [Failure Rate = 30% (0.30)]
Antilock Brakes: 30%, [Failure Rate = 30% (0.30)]
High-wet-traction Tires: 30%, [Failure Rate = 30% (0.30)]
Airbags: 30%, [Failure Rate = 30% (0.30)]
If you only wear seat belts, you have a 30% chance of serious injury in the specific impending accident type. The seat belt prevents you from being ejected through the windshield and reduces head injury from impact on hard surfaces within the vehicle.
It's an obvious benefit, right?
If you are wearing your seat belt AND you have antilock brakes, the math looks like this:
Mitigation 1 Failure Rate x Mitigation 2 Failure Rate = Total Failure Rate
0.30 (30%) x 0.30 (30%) = 0.09 (9%)
That means that 9% of the time, the mitigations fail and you or your child suffer serious injury. By "layering" one more technology, you have reduced the risk to yourself or your child from 30% to 9%!
Now, let's say you use all four risk mitigations while driving during the specified impending accident type. The math looks like this:
0.30 x 0.30 x 0.30 x 0.30 = 0.0081 (0.81%), or less than 1% chance of serious injury!
Reducing Your and Your Family's CoVID-19 Risk
The realm of driving probably has a 100 mitigations or more that have been developed over time including headlight aiming, headlight dimming regulations, windshield wipers, brake lights, turn signals, speeding laws, regulations for reflective lane markings, technological interventions and so on.
Because you benefit from multiple layers of risk mitigation when you drive, you and your family have low risk.
If you apply this concept of layering mitigations to the CoVID-19 situation, you can keep yourself and you family much safer!
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